India: At least 132 dead, many injured after a cable bridge carrying hundreds collapsed into a river

MORBI, India — Military teams hunted for missing people on Monday after a centuries-old cable suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday, dumping hundreds into the water and killing at least 132 people in one of the country’s worst accidents in the past decade.

At least 177 survivors were pulled from the river and teams from the army, navy and air force were searching for more missing people, said Jigar Khunt, an official with the Gujarat Information Department.

Live video reports showed hundreds of others desperately clinging to the broken structure, trying to get to safety, while crowds ashore screamed or swam to try to rescue those who collapsed.

Authorities said the 19th-century colonial-era footbridge over the Machchu River in the state’s Morbi neighborhood collapsed because it could not handle the weight of the large crowd as the Hindu festival season brought hundreds of tourists to the recently opened tourist attraction.

The 232-meter (761-foot) bridge was closed for nearly six months for repairs and reopened just four days earlier for the Gujarati New Year celebrations. Images from the scene of the disaster showed the bridge split down the middle and the metal deck was hanging down, with metal cables snapped in places.

Minister of State Harsh Sanghvi told reporters that 132 people have been confirmed dead and many have been taken to hospital in critical condition. Sanghvi said responders and rescuers worked overnight to search for the survivors. Most of the victims are teenagers, women and the elderly, he said.

Local news channels carried pictures of the missing, which were shared by concerned relatives who were searching for their loved ones. Many family members ran to crowded hospitals to look for their loved ones.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a three-day visit to his home state of Gujarat, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy”. His office announced compensation to the families of the dead and urged speedy rescue efforts.

Elections to Gujarat’s state government are expected in the coming months and opposition parties have called for an investigation into the collapse, saying the bridge has been reopened without security clearance. The claim could not be independently verified, but the state government said it had formed a special team to investigate the disaster.

Modi ruled Gijarat as the top elected official for 12 years before becoming India’s prime minister in 2014.

India’s infrastructure has long been marred by safety concerns, sometimes resulting in major disasters on the highways and bridges.

The bridge collapse is Asia’s third major crowd-pulling disaster in a month.

On Saturday, a Halloween crowd killed more than 150 mostly young people attending celebrations in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. On October 1, police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a soccer game, leading to a scramble that killed 132 people as spectators tried to flee.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. India: At least 132 dead, many injured after a cable bridge carrying hundreds collapsed into a river

Laura Coffey

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